A couple of days ago I was contacted through Facebook by a woman named Ruth Munson. I'm not sure how she found me, but I suspect she was looking for anyone associated with our local running club. She told me of a man named of Bruce Johnson, who was running across the United States to raise awareness and funds for an organization in Elgin, IL. I've narrowly missed a couple of other cross-country runners in the past couple of years, so I decided to take a closer look.
I found that Bruce was not only running across the country, but that he did it in 2005 too! That he was running for the Community Crisis Center - which offers domestic violence programs, sexual assault programs, and services for the homeless - made for an easy decision to join him. I wanted to be a part of his journey, if even in a small way.
Over the next couple of days I kept in contact with Ruth, who did a great job of keeping me posted on Bruce's progress. When she told me last night that he would be in Montgomery today I tried to think of how I could make it happen. I decided to drive down immediately after this morning's run, and packed my gym bag.
After a seven-mile tempo run at a fast, yet comfortable pace with my training partner I jumped in my car and headed off to search for Bruce. I knew he was going to be heading west on Hwy 82, but where exactly was challenge. I drove south on Troy Hwy and after about eight miles spotted him heading towards me. I parked my car at a nearby hotel and took off after him. In hindsight I should have turned around and positioned myself in front of him. Instead, I had to run about a half mile just to catch up. When I approached him I tried to figure out how I was going to announce my presence without startling him. There was a lot of traffic and noise, so I quickly decided to just run up next to him. This, of course, scared the daylights out of him and almost got me some pepper spray in the face, I later learned.
Once the awkward introduction was out of the way I settled into Bruce's slow, steady pace and we began chatting. "So, what's your story?" he asked. I gave him the broad strokes and from there we talked about where he'd been and the route he would be taking to get to California by May. I was treated to tales of near death, attacking dogs and the largest deer he'd ever seen. I learned the only animals he has yet to see on his adventures are cougars and bears. He told me about a book he hopes to have published by the fall (I can't wait to get a copy), and we discussed the merits of him running and raising awareness for a small organization, like the Community Crisis Center.
After about four miles in 55 minutes I reluctantly turned around and headed back to my car. On my way back to work I was able to meet up with Bruce again, and he stopped long enough for us to take a quick photo. We said our goodbyes and then he picked up where he left off.
It was a real treat to run with Bruce and experience just a bit of what he'll go through over 105 days. Because he's "donating" his feet, and there are 12" in a foot, he's hoping to collect $12 for every step he takes. It will be an honor to contribute.